Assorted recommendations inspired by the multifarious sequel.
By the time you’re done watching The Fate of the Furious, you’re likely to have forgotten some of its distinctly differing parts. The sequel begins as one thing then becomes another and another and another, delivering a thrilling mix of action sequences that don’t quite fit together as a fluid and cohesive whole.
I was reminded of a number of dissimilar movies while watching the eighth Fast and the Furious installment, so this week’s list of recommendations could be an even more mixed assortment than usual. But I have no interest in prescribing bad-tasting medicine like The Game Plan in response to Dwayne Johnson’s soccer dad scene. I’m also ignoring Jason Statham’s cheeky insult reminding Johnson and us all of his dumb Hercules movie.
Instead of going with the usual chronological trip through film history, this Movies to Watch list is matched to the parts of the movie in their order. Sticking with tradition, though, is the following icon warning that there are major Fate of the Furious spoilers below and maybe minor ones for my picks.
Havana Motor Club (2015)
The Fate of the Furious starts off with a celebration of Cuban car culture, which would be good reason to highlight the 2002 documentary Yank Tanks with its focus on the country’s love of classic American automobiles. But then a race through Havana occurs and so this other doc about Cuban car culture and street racing is a more perfect companion. Popular Mechanics even called the film “Fast & Furious, Cuban style.” Now the franchise has some Cuban style of its own.
We Belong Here (2015)
For the F8 scene where Hobbs (Johnson) coaches a young girls’ soccer team to intimidate their opponents with the haka, I could have chosen Invictus or a lengthy doc on the history of Maori rugby. But since it’s a brief little thing, here’s another brief little thing. All you need is this short doc presented by Beats by Dre featuring haka expert Inia Maxwell — he also consulted on the All Blacks’ haka for Invictus — explaining the traditional war dance.
Watch it here:
Secret of the Incas (1954)
The first mission sequence of F8 drops us in mid-action as Dom (Vin Diesel) and his team steal an EMP in Berlin, but some double-crossing puts that item in the hands of the big bad, Cipher (Charlize Theron). Later, Dom and Cipher enter the good guys’ headquarter to steal the “God’s Eye” MacGuffin from the previous movie. She says something about being thankful for the heroes’ retrieving the device for her. That’s the kind of swiping we see a lot in Indiana Jones movies, as well as in one instance in this Charlton Heston adventure movie that inspired two similar moments in Raiders of the Lost Ark. If only Dora the Explorer was around to say, “Cipher, no swiping!”
Mission: Impossible III (2006)
In addition to featuring the “MacGuffin Delivery System” trope addressed above, F8 also uses the “I Have Your Wife” trope where the villain makes the hero do his or her bidding by kidnapping a loved one. The best action movie to do this is the third installment of the M:I franchise. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s big bad, Davian, holds Ethan Hunt’s wife hostage in order to get the IMF team to steal a MacGuffin called a “Rabbit’s Foot” for him.
What is the point of the prison sequence in F8? Is it just to give Hobbs and Deckard (Jason Statham) some time together, just the two of them? The whole riot and escape sequence seems not only unnecessary but also potentially lethal for some innocent prison employees. It’s a shame when heroes have to be so hard on guards and wardens who are just doing their jobs when breaking out of their wrongful imprisonment. We saw something similar recently in Escape Plan, but it’s John Woo’s Face/Off that most amazes me when Sean-as-Castor (Nicolas Cage) unapologetically threatens the lives of so many possibly fine men in order to escape his predicament.
The Love Bug (1968)
The next big sequence in F8 is set in New York City and involves a lot of self-driving cars causing a whole lot of damage in the streets of Manhattan. While they’re technically operated by remote control from Cipher’s plane, to the people of the Big Apple they seem to actually have a life of their own. Just like Herbie, the Love Bug. In this first installment of a Disney franchise that anticipates many horror movies about sentient vehicles to come, the iconic VW takes part in a race where he doesn’t exactly play by the rules. But that’s OK because he’s so cute!
The Seven-Ups (1973)
Sticking with the NYC sequence for a moment, here’s an underrated movie with one of the best car chases through the city — and if we want to get The French Connection out of the way, it might be the best one on the island of Manhattan (before making its way across the George Washington Bridge). The Seven-Ups is the only movie directed by Philip D’Antoni, who’d produced The French Connection (winning an Oscar in doing so) and Bullitt. Its main event is a little bit like a recycling of some of both those better movies but is still worth checking out if you can’t get enough of this kind of stuff.
Animal Kingdom (2010)
While in NYC, Dom manages to elude surveillance briefly (using help he couldn’t possibly have contacted while under the watch of Cipher) and meets with a matriarchal figure played by Helen Mirren. She turns out to be the mother of Deckard and Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), and since we see so little of her, it’s easy to just imagine her to be like Animal Kingdom’s “Smurf” (Jacki Weaver , or Ellen Barkin in TV series version), the head of an Australian crime family of tough guy brothers who barely get along.
Die Another Day (2002)
There’s a lot of James Bond at that franchise’s silliest in the latter half of the Fast and the Furious series, and much of it feels reminiscent of the Pierce Brosnan era. The fact that F8 has a big sequence with sports cars driving on ice makes that clearer than ever, evoking the much smaller-scale bit in this 20th official 007 movie involving frozen terrain in Iceland (F8 filmed in Iceland but the setting there is supposed to be Russia). If F8 had wanted to top even more Bond material, it should have introduced a submersible sports car alongside its submarine subplot, a la The Spy Who Loved Me.
Hard Boiled (1992)
Another John Woo movie here, this one from his pre-Hollywood days. Even if you’ve never seen Hard Boiled you might guess why it’s included here because the movie poster features Chow Yun-Fat holding a gun in one hand and a baby in another. Any action movie where someone fights while holding an infant — Undercover Blues, definitely Shoot ’Em Up , now F8 with Statham’s climactic fight on Cipher’s plane— harkens back to this one. F8 even amusingly expands upon Hard Boiled’s ear plugs detail.
The Italian Job (2003)
And then the movie is over and we haven’t seen Theron drive a car once, and that appears to be a major criticism from people who don’t accept movies not being the movie they expect or want. Because she’s Furiosa or something. If you desire to see the actress behind the wheel, specifically inside a little Mini Coop, there’s plenty of that in this remake featuring F8 costars Theron and Statham and helmed by F8 director F. Gary Gray. Actually, if you like what Gray did with his Fast and the Furious installment, you ought to go back and watch a number of his works that seem to have led him to the franchise, including The Italian Job, A Man Apart, which stars Diesel, Be Cool, which stars Johnson, Set It Off, which is an early heist movie he did, and of course all his music videos featuring hot cars and scantily clad women.
xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017)
A lot of people consider the Fast and the Furious movies to be silly stuff, and they definitely are, but if you want to put them into a perspective where they feel more real, just watch the new xXx sequel. Also starring Diesel and some other old friends of Gray’s, The Return of Xander Cage is a ridiculous cartoon of a movie that ignores the laws of physics even more than F8. At least the stunts in F8 are mostly practical and so feel like they could happen. Return of Xander Cage goes above and beyond to where you stop complaining about its implausibilities and have a good time watching such Extreme stunts as Diesel skiing down a jungle mountain and Diesel riding a dirt bike on water.